The woman who triggered the downfall of General David Petraeus is speaking out for the first time, describing the harassing emails she received from Petraeus' mistress and calling the scandal as "a living nightmare." NBC's Kerry Sanders reports.
In her first interview since the scandal that led to the resignation of former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus, Florida socialite Jill Kelley says that his biographer, Paula Broadwell, tried to blackmail her.
"There was blackmail, extortion, threats," Kelley told The Daily Beast of the "fewer than 10" anonymous emails sent to Kelley in May, which investigators later determined were sent by Broadwell.
Kelley, 37, said the messages became increasingly more threatening, though they did not explicitly tell her to stay away from Petraeus, as had previously been believed.
Kelley said she had no idea at the time who was behind the messages.
“I never met Paula in my life,” Kelley said, adding that she didn't even know that Broadwell had written a biography about Petraeus.
Kelley and her husband, who is a surgeon, are close friends of the Petraeus family. She was a volunteer social liaison to the MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., where she often hosted parties for top brass.
"I knew I was being stalked," Kelley said. "I did what anybody else would have done when they were feeling threatened, to go seek protection from somebody I could trust."
T. Ortega Gaines/The Charlotte Observer; Chris O'Meara/AP
File photos show Gen. David Petraeus' biographer and paramour Paula Broadwell, left, and Florida socialite Jill Kelley.
Kelley's complaint to the FBI led to an investigation, which began in June 2012 and revealed that Broadwell had sent the emails. Investigators also uncovered evidence of Broadwell's affair with Petraeus, which ended in July 2012. Petraeus resigned his post on Nov. 7.
Soon after, federal officers began investigating U.S. General John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and nominated to be NATO's supreme allied commander, after it was revealed that he had exchanged numerous emails with Kelley, some of which were described as "inappropriate."
Kelley told The Daily Beast that she was celebrating her daughter's seventh birthday when the media descended on her, after her identity as the tipster who led to Petraeus' downfall became public.
“It was devastating,” Kelley said. “To have your privacy invaded is truly—there are no words to describe it. Instead of enjoying a family birthday party, I had paparazzi storming my front lawn, pushing down the door. There are no words to describe the panic and fear at that moment.”
Kelley declined last month to press charges against Broadwell over the emails and federal prosecutors closed the case.
But Kelley said her image continued to suffer through half-truths and lies reported in the media.
“As much as I appreciate that they want to be the first one to come out with a headline, regardless of whether they did any fact-checking, they have to consider the impact they have on our life and our children’s lives,” she said. “Just because it’s repeated doesn't make it true. It was living a nightmare.”
Broadwell, Kelley both were repeat White House visitors, official says
As their secret dissolved, Petraeus, Broadwell chatted at awards dinner
Email to Gen. Allen warning about Kelley among those she gave to the FBI
As FBI investigated Petraeus, he and Allen waded into nasty child custody fight